In 2008, New Hanover County and Castle Hayne residents came together to create a Small Area Plan, outlining a vision for a village-style business district along Highway 117. The recession put these plans on hold, but, with the economy starting to improve, now is the time to bring them back on track with current conditions and future projections.
On April 8th, residents, business owners, and representatives of local government and state agencies met at the Cape Fear Community College North Campus to discuss their goals for Castle Hayne. FOCUS organized this meeting as part of the Castle Hayne Catalyst Project, which seeks to revive the 2008 Castle Hayne Small Area Plan. This is one of four FOCUS Catalyst projects, which will provide a ‘tool-kit’ of best practices for building complete communities. For a community to be complete, it must provide residents easy access to their daily needs: shopping, school, work, and recreation should be a only a short trip away. Other FOCUS Catalyst sites are in Coastal Pender County, Leland, and the Wilmington Southside area.
Participants at the morning public meeting agreed that the community needs to prepare for the growth that is coming, but also that steps need to be taken to preserve the rural character that they value. When asked about short-term priorities, water and sewer infrastructure and traffic circulation were the major concerns of residents, said Karyn Crichton, New Hanover County Planner. Castle Hayne residents feel these improvements should be the first step for their community. In the future, many would like to see Castle Hayne as an anchor, a complete community, which would provide shopping and amenities for locals and visitors in a southern small town atmosphere.
In the afternoon, FOCUS and New Hanover County brought residents’ comments and concerns to a collection of representatives from the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, NC Department of Transportation, Metropolitan Planning Organization, and other regional agencies. The discussion showed that steps are already being made towards the goals of the 2008 plan. The DOT, for example, will begin construction in May to improve safety at the intersection of Highways 133 and 117. The addition of sidewalks and bike lanes may be possible as part of that project. Progress was also made in new areas, as well. The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority has allotted a section of its budget for water and sewer expansion in the County and will continue to work together with New Hanover County to find additional funding opportunities for utilities in the area, according to Gary McSmith, CFPUA Engineering Manager.
The day was very productive and informative, especially for the local government and state agencies who were looking for input from the public. The groundwork has been laid for them to work together and get these important projects going. Public participation is a vital element, though, and all those present at the meeting agreed that Castle Hayne residents should stay involved and continue campaigning for the future they want for their community.